Friday, 16 October 2009

Counter Culture: How Clean Are Your Testers?

I'm in two minds about posting this. I've decided I'm going to go ahead and raise the issue here on the blog, but I'm not going to name-and-shame any counters or brands. For I have a SRS BIZNESS-style complaint to make. Read on to hear the grinding of my axe.

When you wander the beauty halls of any major city, you routinely encounter gaily-made-up sirens who try to beguile you into a "makeover" or a "pampering session" with their products. They're sales assistants, but they also claim the role of "makeup artist". In fact there's a thin line between the two - some of these people are qualified, such as MAC and Illamasqua's staff. Some are just sales staff who have had a training course with the company they sell for.

Most of these people are on commission and they can often be quite persuasive about getting you to sit in a chair and try out their stuff. Usually it's the non-qualified ones who push the hardest.

Sometimes it's fun to go along with the sales pitch, barring a little awkwardness when it comes to the hard sell (I'm thinking here of my poor family member who came away from the counter of a certain aggressively-marketed Californian brand beginning with "B", bearing £100 of products she didn't need and hadn't intended to buy, just because she couldn't stand up to the sales girl). *deep breath* But the thing that bugs me about all this, if you'll forgive the pun, is hygiene.

Recently I found myself in the chair in an Oxford Street beauty hall, having my eyes lined by a girl who wasn't a trained artist. She was putting pencil on the inner rims of my eyes - something I'm hesitant to do even for myself.

Alarm bells went off when I saw her pick up the tester that the general public have access to and apply it straight to my delicate mucous membranes. I asked her if the products were sanitised before use, and she said they were, before and after every customer.

However shortly afterwards, I noticed her colleague pick the same pencil straight up from where she had replaced it on the stand and use it on another woman's eyes after mine. No sanitising took place whatsoever.

Are you cringing yet? Because I was.

As soon as we were done, I went across to the Clarins counter and asked to borrow some cleanser and eye makeup remover to take absolutely everything off again. (The assistant there readily complied - and she didn't try to sell me anything either.)


  1. Flipping heck! Even I sanitise my eyeliners before using them on the waterline, that's disgusting!

    I think it's a serious issue that you should raise with the cosmetic company themselves, they'd be appalled too, usually they do have pretty stringent rules about that kind of thing.

  2. Wow... I think a little bit of sick just came up.

    That's just out of order. Please do make an official complaint.

  3. I am considering it - the thing was that the girl serving me could tell that they'd made a terrible impression and I really felt for her. I don't want to lose her her job... though complaining would be for the greater good, wouldn't it?

  4. Urgh! Urghurghurgh! That's seriously disgusting - worth complaining about, I think, although I can understand you not wanting to get the girl in trouble.

    I've actually never allowed anyone on a beauty counter to do my makeup - partly because their own makeup always looks trowelled on (I know they're probably told to, but it doesn't inspire confidence) and partly because I know I'd end up buying stuff I didn't want, because I wouldn't want to dissapoint them. (Oh, and also because every time I go near a counter, the assistants always make me feel like an old hag by saying things like, 'Have you tried this? It would be great for your exceptionally greasy skin!" Or "I can tell you don't use a good eye cream - this would help with the horrific bags I can see under your eyes!" Aaargh!

  5. @Sarah - Can you not make a complaint without naming the MUA (and I use that term loosely) - they might send a kind of warning out across all counters that this sort of thing won't be tolerated.

    @Forever Amber - I know!! MUA keep attacking me with yellow things for my "redness problem".

    I didn't freakin' know I had a "problem" but thanks for making me hyper aware of it.

  6. Haha, so true... "I'll just conceal these MASSIVE BLEMISHES" they say, and then plaster you in orange goop. I'm game for a bit of experimentation and I like to see how other people do makeup, but too often it's embarrassing and awkward, and I think this experience has put me off for life!
    Glad it's not just me who is made to feel like a clueless frump. The irony is I probably know more about their products than they do due to being an obsessive makeup nerd.

  7. Lipglossiping - you don't have a problem, I've seen your blog pics! You've got great skin (and a killer DSLR - what make is it?)

    I made a comment on their site, just filled in all the name/email fields with "anon". Hopefully since I didn't put the date and time they won't track it to any one staff member.

  8. Ick! Definitely complain. If you caught an eye infection as a result of bad hygiene, they'd be responsible - I'm sure the company involved would much rather nip any bad behaviour in the bud.

  9. Urgh ...grim. I've never tested anything off a counter on my face - ever! I always swatch on my hand and am happy to google images of swatches and make my purchase choices based on that and recs from either bloggers or friends.


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